Deceased Aurora woman's will asks for her still-living dog to be buried with her

AURORA, Ind. – An Aurora, Indiana woman who died in November requested in her last will and testament that her dog Bela be buried with her.

One problem: Bela, the German shepherd, is still alive.

Connie Lay died Nov. 25. Her attorney, Doug Denmure, said Lay’s will stipulates Bela must be euthanized, cremated and buried with her – or sent to an animal shelter in Utah.

“(Lay) made provisions that in the event of her death, she wanted her very close friend to take charge of the dog,” Denmure said. “…She also then requested that the dog be put to sleep, cremated and that the dog’s ashes be placed with her own ashes.”

Right now, the dog’s fate is in the hands of Lay’s friends and no decision has been made.

Denmure said Lay’s will gives her friend the option to send Bela to Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, but if that option is “not possible” or “too much expense,” the dog would be euthanized.

There is no deadline for Lay’s friend to make a decision, Denmure said.

In the meantime, Bela is being housed at PAWS of Dearborn County Humane Center in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Denmure said Lay didn’t trust Bela to be around others and the 105-pound dog has a history of aggressive behavior. He called the dog “potentially dangerous.”

“He could cause damage and inflict bodily harm on strangers, in particular, children,” Denmure said. “When (Lay) died, she died at her home and the dog was in there. No one could enter the house because they were concerned the dog would attack.”

He said a veterinarian recommended Bela be put down.

Since hearing Bela's story, many have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #SaveBella (sp), calling Lay's request selfish.

Denmure said he didn't expect the reaction, and everything about Lay’s request is legal.

“The dog was owned by my client and now it’s part of her estate," Denmure said. "And those are her wishes, as far as the future of the dog is concerned. Outsiders don’t have the grounds to rewrite the provisions of my client’s will and impose what they want.”

Eric C. Rayvid, spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, told WCPO Tuesday he had not yet spoken to Lay’s attorney or friend.

“I asked around earlier and to my knowledge we have not been contacted about this dog other than from a few media outlets,” Rayvid said.

PAWS released the following statement Tuesday:

“You may have seen the news story regarding Bela, the German Shepherd dog being housed at PAWS Humane Center. We would like to take a moment to clarify the circumstances of Bela’s stay at our center.

Legally, Bela is considered the property of the estate of the deceased person and not PAWS Humane Center. He is only being housed and cared for at our center while legal proceedings with the estate are being finalized.

PAWS has no legal right or control over his outcome. Bela will not be euthanized at our facility, either by PAWS staff or the Dearborn County Animal Control Officers. If a euthanization decision is reached by the estate, then it will be the responsibility of the estate to make those arrangements elsewhere.

We appreciate your care and concern for Bela and all of the animals in Dearborn County.”

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